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A Brilliant Account of John Lennon's Early Years
on 31 May 2010
Sam Taylor-Wood's feature directorial debut, 'Nowhere Boy', takes its inspiration from John Lennon's teenage years. The soon-to-be Beatle had an unconventional upbringing, being raised by his Aunt Mimi when his mother Julia proved unable to cope with looking after him as her relationship with Lennon's father fell apart. The film picks up the story when the teenage Lennon renews his relationship with his mother, and begins to develop his musical leanings, forming the Quarrymen and setting out on the path to being part of one of the icons of the 20th century.
The film is pretty much perfectly cast - Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff are wonderful as sisters Mimi and Julia, one very austere and outwardly frosty, the other more flighty and fun but deeply troubled beneath the surface. Meanwhile, relative newcomer Aaron Johnson captures the spirit and swagger of Lennon perfectly without ever feeling like he's attempting an impersonation, and does an excellent job of carrying the film. Equally good is Thomas Sangster as Paul McCartney, who gives a great performance but perhaps doesn't quite convince in the same way as his co-star.
Films such as these have their pitfalls - for instance, it would be easy to simply provide a checklist of important moments in Lennon's life, and little else. Whilst the film doesn't shy away from detailing these iconic moments, the focus is very much on the relationship between John, Mimi and Julia, and is all the stronger for it. As such, it slightly rewrites a few details for the sake of coherence, but none of these stick out as a problem, and usually serve the narrative well. Although the period detail and Taylor-Wood's confident direction makes this an excellent film, it's the performances and characters that really make it something special. Whether you're a die-hard Beatles fan, or someone who knows nothing about them, you can still enjoy this film - and I suspect you will.